South Africa men and women hockey teams took both Rio 2016 Olympics qualifying spots as the African Hockey Championship ended in Randburg, Johannesburg, South Africa.
South Africa men won the 2015 men’s competition after defeating Egypt 4-2 in the final, while their women defeated Ghana 3-0 in the final game of the round-robin to finish top of the standings, both grabbing slots in Rio 2016.
Both South Africa women and men’s teams finished the competition with six wins from as many matches.
In the men’s bronze medal match, fans were treated to a fabulous display of attack and counter-attack as rivals Kenya (FIH World Ranking: 39) and Ghana (World Ranking: 41) battled it out for a 4-3 win in favour of the higher-ranked Kenyan team.
Derric Kuloba opened the scoring in the 10th minute when some great build-up play created space for the midfielder to slip the ball past Eugene Acheampong in the Ghana goal. This was Acheampong’s last action of the Championship as he left the field to be replaced by Jeffery Karikari.
Ghana came straight back into the game, with Captain Salya Nsalbini leading by example. His equaliser from a penalty corner in the 17th minute brought Ghana back level.
On the verge of half-time, Kenya got their second goal, a penalty corner struck by Maxwell Wakhungu; the action also saw two Ghana players yellow carded. Despite being down to eight field players, Ghana held on until half-time with no further score.
Four minutes into the second half however, and still with a two-man advanatge, Kenya extended their lead to 3-1 with a well-taken goal from Leon Magomere.
As the action flew from end-to-end, Ghana were still very much in the game and they came back to 3-2 when Michael Baiden scored from open play.
However, Kenya restored the cushion just one minute later through some great work by George Mutria and, despite one more goal from Benedict Sam in the 50th minute, Kenya were able to shut up shop and hold onto the lead through the last 10 tense minutes.
Kenya women (World Ranking: 37) will be hugely disappointed that they were unable to end the event with a win. The Kenyan team played exciting hockey throughout the competition, but against the speed and strength of the ever-improving Nigerian team (World Ranking: 53) they had no answers with the West Africans winning 3-1.
It was Kenya who actually took the lead in the third minute of play. A foul in the circle led to a penalty stroke, which Teresa Nekesa calmly slotted home, but that early set-back was the wake-up call needed by coach Abdullahe Ndanababa’s team and Nigeria rose to the challenge with gusto.
It was Eleho Ovoh who did the damage, the 22-year-old scored a hat trick, with three goals scored from open play. Her vision and reading of the game mark her out as a player to watch in the future.
The South African teams will be invited to participate at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in accordance with the FIH Rio 2016 Qualification System for the Olympic hockey events, approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). (FIH)
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